County requests more time to complete Hwy 132 work

Tribune-Herald file photo Heavy machinery cuts through the lava over Highway 132 on June 19 in Pahoa.

The county Department of Public Works has requested a three-month extension to complete the reconstruction of Highway 132 in lower Puna.

Portions of the roadway were inundated by lava during the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano.


Work to re-establish the road began June 10, but work needs to be completed by Oct. 5 to qualify for 100% reimbursement from the Federal Highway Administration.

County Department of Public Works spokeswoman Denise Laitinen said Public Works is seeking a time extension from the FHA to install the road’s base layer.

Last week, Laitinen said crews working on the roadway are encountering temperatures of up to 800 degrees in some spots, and the concern then is that temperatures exceed recommended levels for the installation of asphalt-treated base.

Public Works also wants permission from the FHA to open the road in two phases — the upper and lower sections.

As of Wednesday, Laitinen said rough grading work has been completed in the upper portion of Highway 132, from just after the Puna Geothermal Venture entrance heading makai for 1.7 miles. Fine grading is underway and is expected to be completed by the end of August, weather and construction conditions permitting.

“Once the fine grading is complete, the upper portion of the road will be ready for paving with asphalt-treated base, provided the area is (a) sufficiently cool temperature acceptable for (asphalt-treated base) installation,” she explained.

For the lower portion of the road, from “Four Corners” — the intersection of Highway 132 and Highway 137 — heading mauka 1.6 miles, Laitinen said the rough grading work will be completed in approximately two weeks.

Once the rough grading is complete, it is anticipated that the fine grading will be finished approximately two weeks after that, “and the road may be paved thereafter, provided weather and construction conditions permit for the above activities being completed,” she said.

“This is an aggressive timeline and crews are working hard to meet the Oct. 5 deadline, or extension thereof if granted, to at least prepare the gravel surface ready for paving, in order to qualify for 100% federal reimbursement of the project,” said Laitinen. “Given the pockets of high temperatures being encountered in the lower portion, that portion of the road will have less time to cool.”

Rough grading work from “Four Corners” toward the old Government Beach Road is ongoing.

According to Laitinen, the temporary road is following the path of Highway 132 before it was inundated with lava and is designed to have the same alignment and design speed as the pre-existing roadway. Highway 132 will feature two 12-foot travel lanes and 10-foot shoulder, on par with the highway’s pre-existing condition, she said.

“As a temporary roadway, initial plans called for this being a gravel road or lined with … cold plane material, pending material availability,” Laitinen said. “The ideal goal was to pave the road with asphalt-treated base to restore the road to its pre-existing state. That paving is dependent on funding availability, as well as the road being cool enough to pave with (asphalt-treated base), provided weather and construction conditions permit for the above activities being completed.”

Initial construction costs were estimated at nearly $12 million, but Laitinen said design and construction work are being done in-house by the department, “where cost savings are anticipated.”

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